25 Facts About Child Actors That Will Fascinate Anyone Who's Wondered What It'd Be Like To Grow Up Famous

    Drew Barrymore hosted Saturday Night Live for the first time when she was only 7 years old.

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    1. An agent once told an 11-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio that he ought to change his name to "Lenny Williams," because his actual name was "too ethnic" and would prevent him from getting jobs. DiCaprio refused and didn't get an agent for another two years, and the one he found was fine with his real name.

    Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro

    2. Miranda Cosgrove trained as a singer when she was younger, but since her School of Rock character, Summer, was meant to be comically bad at it, she had to take a "bad singing lesson." Director Richard Linklater then chose the best worst version of Summer's song.

    Summer sits reading a book called "The Business of Music"

    Cosgrove actually auditioned for the film by singing, though her choice of song is one that she's still "kind of embarrassed" by: a show tune called "Hey, Look Me Over" from Lucille Ball's 1960 Broadway musical Wildcat.

    Miranda Cosgrove as an adult

    3. Joe Pesci purposefully avoided Macaulay Culkin, who was 10 at the time, on the set of Home Alone, hoping to make Culkin believe he was as scary as his character. While filming the sequel, Lost in New York, "Culkin asked Pesci why he never smiled at him, to which Pesci is said to have replied: 'Shut up.'"

    Macauley Culkin as Kevin
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    Pesci later explained, "[Culkin]'s pampered a lot by a lot of people, but not me, and I think he likes that."

    Kevin with the wet bandits in the second Home Alone movie

    4. Shirley Temple's hair was naturally straight. Her mother personally styled it into her signature curls for each of her movies, and she was paid a weekly salary by the studio for "being in charge of Shirley's hair." Apparently, the look required exactly 56 curls.

    Shirley Temple as a 4-year-old

    5. In 1972, at the age of 44, Temple was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she used the power of her fame to encourage patients to be their own advocates. She was one of the first celebrities to go public with a cancer diagnosis, and she spoke to reporters from her hospital bed following her mastectomy, wearing a "coral negligee" and "a white gardenia over her right ear." Temple urged other people who notice "strange lumps" to "go to a doctor immediately and get it diagnosed."

    Shirley Temple as a young woman

    At the time, it was common for doctors to do a biopsy and mastectomy during the same operation, even though there was "no compelling medical reason" for doing so. But Temple rejected this notion by saying, "The doctor can make the incision; I'll make the decision."

    An older Shirley Temple by a Screen Actors Guild Award

    6. Quvenzhané Wallis had to lie about her age when she auditioned for Beasts of the Southern Wild, since the role called for people between the ages of 6 and 9, and she was still only 5. But her audition was so striking that she stood out among 3,500 other hopefuls, according to director and cowriter Benh Zeitlin.

    Quvenzhané as Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild

    During a callback, a scene required Wallis to throw a water bottle at another actor. She repeatedly refused to, and when Zeitlin stopped the audition to ask why, Wallis replied that it wasn't right. Her "strong sense of morality" and "fierceness to defy some director she didn’t know" convinced Zeitlin that she was right for the part. To date, Wallis is the youngest person ever nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress (she was 9).

    Quvenzhané Wallis at a screening of Beasts of the Southern Wild

    7. Mara Wilson, who starred in Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire, once wrote that her parents kept her "grounded" at the height of her success by having her share a room with her sister and continue to attend a public elementary school. They also told her to "think of acting as just a hobby."

    Mara Wilson as Matilda, reading in a chair

    Today, Wilson mostly focuses on writing, and in 2016 she released a memoir entitled Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame. She also voices The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home on Welcome to Night Vale and has had additional voice acting roles on BoJack Horseman and Big Hero 6: The Series.

    8. Jodie Foster's older brother, Buddy, started acting in television commercials when he was 9, and their mother, Brandy, would bring young Jodie back and forth to his auditions. When Buddy auditioned for a Coppertone commercial, the 3-year-old Jodie got noticed and cast instead. She did commercials for the next two years, then branched out into TV and film. By the age of 12, she had her first Oscar nomination, for Best Supporting Actress in Taxi Driver.

    Jodi Foster and Robert De Niro in a cafe in Taxi Driver

    9. Natalie Portman's parents kept a close eye on her on the set of her debut film, Léon: The Professional. They were particularly concerned about the smoking habit of her character, Mathilda. Portman said that her father had rules about "how many drags on a cigarette I could take" and that she "wasn't actually allowed to inhale." Portman was 11 at the time.

    Natalie Portman in the professional

    10. Dylan and Cole Sprouse left Disney after the House of Mouse declined to give them their desired amount of creative control over the The Suite Life on Deck. According to Dylan, when the pair was 18, they went to executives with "a really awesome idea for where the show needed to go." He went on to say, "If [18] isn’t old enough to know exactly what the show needs, then…well, I would beg to disagree.”

    Dylan and Cole as Zack and Cody in the Suite Life

    11. Peter Ostrum played Charlie Bucket in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, and it was his first and last onscreen role. He wasn't particularly enamored with the job, and when Wonka wrapped and the studio offered him a three-picture deal, he turned them down.

    Peter Ostrum with Gene Wilder

    But while the glitz and glamor of a set didn't capture Ostrum's imagination, something else did: the horse his family bought right after getting back from filming in Munich. Caring for the animal inspired Ostrum to become a veterinarian instead of a movie star.

    A grown up Peter Ostrum posing with a golden ticket

    12. Raven-Symoné said that the most difficult episode of That's So Raven to film was "Party Animal," the second episode of Season 1. The plot follows Raven as she throws an extravagant birthday party for her younger brother, Cory, after she gets a vision of him saying he hates her, and it "forever...scarred" Raven-Symoné because she had to hold a live snake, which she wasn't warned about.

    Raven in one of her campy costumes

    13. Emma Watson seriously considered not finishing the Harry Potter series following The Order of the Phoenix because she wanted to focus on her schoolwork. However, once the production rearranged the shooting schedule around the dates of her exams, Watson agreed to sign on. She later said that she realized after the fact that she would've been "public enemy number one" if she'd quit at that point.

    Hermione and Harry sit in the great hall of Hogwarts in the order of the phoenix

    14. While he starred on Doogie Howser, M.D., Neil Patrick Harris and his costars were told to practice their surgical sutures on raw chicken. The chicken trick was also used on the show itself; it was covered in gauze so it looked "essentially like skin" whenever a scene called for someone to stitch up a wound.

    Doogie Howser with two doctors of normal ages

    15. NBC president Brandon Tartikoff didn't want Michael J. Fox to play Alex P. Keaton on Family Ties, and although he eventually relented, he told show creator Gary David Goldberg that "this is not the kind of face you'll ever see on a lunch box." When the show became a hit, Fox sent Tartikoff a gift: a lunch box with his face on it. Enclosed was a note reading, "To Brandon: This is for you to put your crow in. Love and Kisses, Michael J. Fox." Tartikoff kept the present in his office for the rest of his career.

    Michael J Fox in Family Ties

    16. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson skipped their senior prom to host Saturday Night Live, though they had gone to other proms and formal dances before. In their opening monologue, Ashley said, "We’ll never know what it’s like to ride in a limo and wear fancy dresses and have someone do our hair." Mary-Kate responded, "We do that every day." But, Ashley pointed out, "Not at a Marriott."

    Mary Kate and Ashley in a fake limo during their SNL sketch

    17. The voice behind Boo in Monsters, Inc. was a 2-year-old girl named Mary Gibbs. The director, Pete Docter, had to follow her around with a microphone to capture her lines since, being 2 and all, she didn't have much of an attention span.

    Mary Gibbs and Boo, the character she voiced

    Gibbs hasn't done much acting since, having "left showbiz for primary school." In a heartwarming touch, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment reveals that Boo's real name is Mary, too. That's how she signs her drawings, anyway.

    A scene from Monsters Inc. showing that Boo signed her drawings as Mary

    18. Gary Oldman, the actor who played Sirius Black, taught Daniel Radcliffe the bass line to "Come Together" by the Beatles. Radcliffe was 14 and learning bass at the time, and "just looked up to [Oldman] so much." The impromptu lesson got a spot on his list of happiest moments.

    Harry Potter and Sirius Black looking at a picture of the Order of the Phoenix

    19. Nick Jonas said that one of the most memorable parts of being a Disney star was taking part in the Disney Channel Games, a game show that pitted stars from across different shows against one another. All of the actors got to stay in Walt Disney World, and they would occasionally get the park to themselves at night. However, because they were "all dating each other," there was a lot of drama, and Jonas compared the experience to high school.

    The Jonas Brothers at the Disney Channel Games red carpet

    20. Drew Barrymore hosted Saturday Night Live when she was only 7 years old, making her the youngest host ever. She appeared on the show to promote E.T., which had just been released. She has since hosted six times.

    Drew Barrymore doing a skit for SNL, with the cast surrounding her

    21. In Addams Family Values, Morticia and Gomez have a baby boy named Pubert (who almost appeared in one of the original New Yorker comics, until the magazine refused to publish it for being "way too over-the-line and provocative"). Pubert was played by twins Kristen and Kaitlyn Hooper, who later quit acting to focus on athletics.

    Baby Pubert with a drawn on mustache

    Screenwriter Paul Rudnick said, "Painting mustaches on babies, let alone girl babies, was an interesting moment." To get the infant Hoopers to crawl in the right direction, the production team would tie a Cheerio on a string and drag it along.

    Gomez holds the baby, looking terrified

    22. To cast the core group of kids on Stranger Things, the Duffer brothers had hopefuls audition using scenes from the pilot and the movie Stand By Me, which they said "features not one, not two, but four of the greatest child performances in film history." They ultimately auditioned 906 boys and 307 girls before finding their cast. The group quickly formed a group chat without the Duffer brothers' knowledge, and after "incessantly texting each other over the summer," formed the sort of rapport the show needed them to have.

    The kids from Stranger Things in the first season

    23. At the beginning of his career, Kenan Thompson was so strongly associated with Nickelodeon (where he'd starred on All That and Kenan & Kel) that when he sent in audition tapes to Saturday Night Live, they'd tell him he was too young, even though he was in his early twenties by that point. His first chance to formally audition for the show came when he was 25, and he got the job.

    Kenan and Kel in Good Burger art

    24. Haley Joel Osment is probably best known his roles in Forrest Gump, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and The Sixth Sense (he's the one who sees dead people), but he's also a key part of a major franchise: He voices Sora in the English editions of the Kingdom Hearts video games. Osment took on the role for the first time in 2002, when he was 14.

    Young Haley, Sora, and current day Haley

    25. In 2019, Malcolm in the Middle star Frankie Muniz and his fiancé, Paige Price, bought a store called Outrageous Olive Oils & Vinegars in Scottsdale, Arizona. Muniz said they had shopped there before and were looking for something to do together, so when the previous proprietor of Scottsdale's finest oils wanted to sell, it seemed like a perfect fit.

    Frankie Muniz as Malcolm with his brothers in Malcolm in the Middle

    They later sold the store in 2020, since they wanted to focus on starting a family together.

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